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Colony Increase

A summary of increase methods on this website

There are a lot of different methods of colony increase, with several on this website, all accessed by the buttons on the left. The purpose of this page is to give a short description of each one, to help the visitor decide which methods might suit them.

When making increase there are a few principles you need to know. Other than that, if you can find a way of achieving the desired result, then providing it works just do it. If you make a mistake and it goes wrong there will be no great harm and you should have learnt something. In beekeeping if you repeat something, very often you will get a different result than you did last time.

The description headings match the button titles on the top left. Some of these methods are suitable for the amateur beekeeper with a small number of colonies, some for those with large numbers, some will suit everyone. It is a pretty mixed bag, but there is a lot of sound information here.

Walk Away Split. This makes increase by splitting a colony and leaving it to raise it's own queen. In my opinion this is not very suitable for the less prolific queens. Although it is largely what beekeepers did when I started beekeeping and it works, I believe there are better and more controlled ways of making increase.

Roger Patterson Method. This is really a collection of methods that can be brought into one basic system. It will suit all beekeepers, but is particularly useful where rapid increase is required, e.g. a beekeeper building up or a BKA who is trying to produce bees for their beginners. In favourable conditions you can get up to ten colonies strong enough to go into winter from just one strong colony in the spring.

Increase from Swarms. The collection and hiving of swarms is something I will never tire of. It is a cheap and interesting way of making increase - and good for learning too. Before the introduction of moveable comb hives, swarms were the only method of increase available to the ordinary beekeeper. Increase by warming is the natural method honey bees have used for millions of years. If it suits them, it suits me.

Increase for Beginners. A small collection of very simple ways to suit beginners, who may only have a small number of colonies and little experience.

Two Frame Nuc. This is my favourite way of making increase. I have used it for over 40 years, but sadly not many others use it, probably because it isn't in the books! It is suitable for all beekeepers and can be used for anything from queen mating nucs to increase.

Demareeing. This is really a method of managing a colony with an American origin. There are several benefits, one of which is the production of nuclei.

Artificial Swarming. There are a number of swarm control methods, termed "Artificial Swarming", that are designed to try to satisfy a colony's desire to swarm. They all result in an extra colony, in effect the "swarm". Because of the extra equipment required, even if only on a temporary basis, and the lack of forward planning, these methods are really only suitable for the amateur beekeeper with a few colonies.

I now come to a number of methods of increase that may not have names, but are referred to on this website by numbers. The numbering was started by Dave Cushman and I have simply continued. I hope you don't get confused.

Method 1. A method that Dave Cushman developed from an American method used by C.C. Miller. It is intended for rapid increase, but starting with ten colonies and needing two apiaries that are more than flying distance apart.

Method 2. This is the well known "Harry Cloake Method", where a large colony is split into a number of nuclei. These are equi-spaced in a circle around the stand of the parent colony to distribute the flying bees equally. This is sometimes erroneously referred to as the Vince Cook Method.

Method 3. This method is really a way of using the Horsley Board that was originally intended for swarm control. It can conveniently produce a nucleus too.

Method 4. A simple way of making a nuc from several colonies.

Method 5. An easy way of splitting a double brood box colony.

Method 6. Combs with adhering bees are taken from one or more colonies, with the resulting colony placed on the stand of another colony that donates the flying bees. A bit like an artificial swarm.

Method 7. A method of colony increase used by commercial beekeeper Chris Broad, which produces queens, nucs and helps with reducing swarming.

Method 8. With this method you can make up a nuc and leave it in the same apiary. Frames of young unsealed brood are placed in a brood box above a queen excluder on a strong colony. After several days the frames are moved to a nuc. This is my modification of a well known, but little used method.

Method 9. Jeroen Vorstman, a commercial beekeeper from Holland gave a presentation on this method at the BIBBA conference in the Isle of Man in 2016. There is a pdf of an article he subsequently wrote for BBKA News. This method is suitable for those who want more increase and is used by at least one commercial beekeeper I know.

Nucleus. This is not a method, but a description of what a nucleus is and examples of uses for one.

All these methods work, but beekeepers will have their own favourites. Some may need a little more understanding than others, but any method will provide satisfaction when it works well.

Roger Patterson.

Page updated 29/04/2021